HISTORY OF THE CANAL SYSTEM
OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
TOGETHER WITH BRIEF HISTORIES OF THE CANALS
OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA
BY NOBLE E. WHITFORD
From the legislative enactment authorizing a nine-foot channel to the beginning of the third enlargement, or the Barge canal.
The division of the history at this point is somewhat arbitrary, for, as we have seen, the agitation which culminated in the second attempt to enlarge the waterway started several years earlier, but the beginning of 1895 marks the time when the project was definitely formulated in law, just subsequent to the popular declaration for some radical form of improvement.
The constitutional amendment to section 10, article 7, became operative on January 1, 1895, and this year promised to be one of increased activity in canal matters. A complete transfer of political authority in both executive and legislative branches of the State Government had occurred, and it was hoped that great benefit would inure to the whole commonwealth from the new order of things.
The National Government had deepened the lake channel from Chicago to Buffalo to twenty feet, and the Hudson river to twelve feet, while the Erie canal remained at seven feet for boats drawing only six feet. The Canadian Government was also preparing to enlarge its system from twelve feet to twenty feet, from Chicago to Montreal. These facts mainly led to a convention of mercantile exchanges which was held in September of 1894 at Toronto, Canada, in which delegates from the western cities in the grain belt participated. The Georgian Bay canal project was inaugurated, shortening the haul to tide-water several hundred miles, and promising to be a dangerous competitor to the canal systems of our own state.
The Governor urged upon the attention of the Legislature the necessity of prompt action upon the question of improving the canals, and the State Engineer, in his annual report for 1894, presented an elaborate argument as to the value of the canals to the State and the necessity of their permanent improvement. All the improvements so far were of a temporary character. Comparisons were presented between the efficiency of the canal as it then stood, on the one hand, and the five great competing trunk lines of railway, as well as the Canadian canals, on the other. The idea of a ship canal the State Engineer deemed to be impracticable, and he recommended that the canals be improved by (1) deepening to nine feet, (2) lengthening the remaining locks, (3) the use of high lifts where necessary, (4) greater speed by the use of electric towage and (5) reducing cost of maintenance.
As to electric propulsion, he reported that the Milligan system appeared to supply all the necessary requirements and to solve the problem of easy and rapid canal transit. This system, briefly stated, consisted of a line of fourteen-foot posts in the rear of the tow-path, bearing two continuous rails, known as the east and west-bound rails, about three feet apart. A twenty-horse-power motor ran on these rails and from the motor a tow-line connected with the boat. 1
Immediately upon the assembling of the Legislature of 1895 the subject of canal improvements was considered. On January 9, in the Assembly, Mr. Clarkson introduced a bill making provision for issuing bonds to an amount not to exceed nine millions of dollars for the improvement of the Erie, the Champlain and the Oswego canals, and providing for the submission of the measure to be voted upon by the people at the general election of the year 1895. 2
After the usual procedure this bill was finally passed by the Assembly on January 19, by a vote of eighty-three to thirty-one and by the Senate on February 21, by a vote of nineteen to four. It became a law on March 9, 1895, with the Governors approval, and in accordance with its terms and with constitutional requirements was submitted to the people at the ensuing November election for approval. In the event of such approval it was provided in the bill that the Comptroller should issue not more than nine million dollars in semi-annual four per cent bonds, to run not more than seventeen years and to be sold for not less than par, in lots of not more than four million dollars at one time. Premiums were to be applied to the sinking fund established for the payment of principal and interest, and an annual tax of thirteen-hundredths of a mill upon all taxable property was authorized for this fund.
By the terms of the bill (ß 3) as applied to the Erie canal, the improvement was to consist of deepening the canal to a depth of not less than nine feet of water, except over aqueducts, miter-sills and other permanent structures which might be left at eight feet. The deepening might be accomplished by raising the banks where practicable. Locks remaining to be lengthened were to be improved and provided with necessary machinery, and vertical stone walls were to be constructed where required.
The usual number of appropriations for special canal purposes was also made by the Legislature of 1895. The amount of these special appropriations was afterwards stated to be about $660,000. 3 Among them were $77,500 from the balance remaining of the fund for deepening the canal under chapter 572, Laws of 1894, reappropriated to lengthen locks Nos. 21 and 22, and $10,000 from the same source to dredge lower Black Rock harbor (chapter 320); $31,250 to build the Stateís half of a bridge at Porter avenue, Buffalo, the city to contribute an equal amount (chapter 18); $25,000 for a bridge at Exchange street, Rochester (chapter 514); $18,000 for bridge changes in motor power at Genesee street, Utica (chapter 170); $30,000 for drainage of State ditches at Cowassalon creek and swamp (chapter 366); $20,000 for drainage at Tonawanda (chapter 19); $10,000 for a similar purpose (chapter 307) and $20,000 for the repair of the dam at Rexford Flats (chapter 560).
Senate resolutions were also introduced reciting the facts that the canals annually cost one and one-half million dollars to maintain; that many other states were benefited by their service as a through freight rate regulator; that it was the policy of the United States to maintain interstate waterways; that the people could not sell the canals constitutionally; and that it was inequitable that New York should bear the entire burden of their maintenance while other states enjoyed their principal benefits. The resolutions instructed their Representatives in Congress to support and urge the passage of a bill providing that the United States Treasurer should annually pay to the Comptroller of New York three-fourths of the expense of their maintenance for the preceding year. By this means the opponents of the canals sought to divert public thought from the question at issue and to obtain the defeat of the referendum, but the resolutions were finally tabled. 4
An act providing for the construction of a dam on the Genesee river, for the purpose of supplying water to the Erie canal and of restoring to the owners of water-power on the Genesee river the water diverted by the State for canal purposes, was also passed by both Houses and sent to the Governor, but it failed to secure his approval and did not become a law. 5
In November, 1895, under Senate resolution 130, which became a law on March 2, 1895, the President appointed a United States Deep Waterways Commission, consisting of James Angell, John E. Russell and Lyman E. Cooley. The report made to the commission by Mr. Cooley contains a large amount of valuable information on this subject and is accompanied by profiles of all the routes, giving information not before published. The report of the commission was published under date of 1897, as H.R. Doc. 192, 54th Congress, 2d Session.
The publication which contained the most general discussion upon the subject of New York State canals was that of the proceedings of the International Deep Waterways Association, which met at Cleveland, Ohio, on September 24-26, 1895. The proceedings of this convention were published in a book of four hundred and sixty pages which contains a vast amount of valuable discussion on the general subject, including articles by Thomas C. Clarke, Lyman E. Cooley, Chauncey N. Dutton, S. A. Thompson of Duluth and others. 6
Navigation opened on the canals on May 3 and closed December 5, for the season of 1895. Lake navigation was open after April 4, and the Hudson river from April 2 to December 9. The season was remarkable as being the dryest in many years. Lakes Erie and Ontario were from two to four feet below their normal elevation. Extreme care was used in drawing upon reserve supplies, but an abundant supply for navigation in the canals was maintained. At Buffalo, on several occasions, with adverse eastern winds, the canal surface was lowered four or five feet and the unusual sight was presented of loaded boats lying hard and fast on the bottom of the canal until the wind shifted and the prism was again filled to its usual level. 7
An innovation in canal boat construction should be noted for August of 1895, in the trial trip of a fleet of steel canal boats -- one steamer and five consorts -- put in commission by the Cleveland Steel Canal Boat Company. A thorough working trial was given them, with very satisfactory results and three more fleets on improved plans were ordered. The boats were about ninety-eight feet in length, by eighteen feet beam, and ten feet deep, made of three-eighths-inch open hearth steel. Light, they drew one and one-half feet; capacity of consorts on a six-foot draught, two hundred and thirty-five net tons, and of propeller, one hundred and thirty net tons. The latter was fitted with fore-and-aft compound engine of one hundred and twenty horse-power, and boiler of Scotch type. Diameter of propeller, sixty-four inches, making one hundred and sixty revolutions per minute; approximate cost of propeller, fifteen thousand dollars and of consort, six thousand dollars; time, New York to Cleveland, loaded to six feet, thirteen days. 8
In October of 1895, there occurred another series of tests of electrical propulsion, the trial being made at Tonawanda by the Erie Canal Traction Company, of the "Lamb" system, which consisted of a line of poles along the bank supporting a stationery cableway, on which electric motor carriages traveled, towing the attached boats. The department was represented by Electrician Barnes of Rochester, and his report was made to the Superintendent of Public Works on December 11, 1895. From his computations the cost of propulsion, under experimental conditions that were somewhat disadvantageous, would be, for a boat whose gross weight was two hundred seventeen and one-half tons at a speed of two and one-half miles per hour, 2.1 cents per boat-mile for power or $7.66 per trip and a like sum for tow-motor rental. The energy consumed would vary approximately as the cube of the speed divided by the ratio of speed, and the item for motor rental would vary as the power divided by that ratio. Thus, if the speed should be increased to three and one-half miles per hour, the power would be increased from 8.5 to 23.4 electric horse-power, the cost of current to 4.1, and of motor rental to 4.1 cents, making 8.2 cents per mile, or $29.93 per trip. Making allowance of one-third time for delays there would be twenty-three trips per season at the lower speed and thirty-two trips at the higher speed. This was considered to fall far short of the cost of towage prevailing at the time. In comparison with the trolley system, tried in 1893, several points of advantage were noted. Among them, the elimination of the necessity for building propeller boats, no space required for electrical machinery, and the absence of propeller wash. The system was fully endorsed by the expert. 9
In the Milligan system the motor was carried on rigid rails. There was no sagging between poles, and an even strain on the towing-cable was maintained. It had double tracks upon which two motors traveling in opposite directions might pass without exchanging motors as in the Lamb system. On this last-named system the motor was carried on flexible cables and was much cheaper in both installation and maintenance.
The great interest in enlarged canals manifested by the Deep Waterways Association, and by the results of the recent elections led to a preliminary survey and estimates for an enlarged canal by the "Oswego Route" by Resident Engineer Albert J. Himes, [see errata] under direction of the State Engineer, in the fall of 1895. The route was from Troy through the Mohawk river to Rome, thence into Wood creek and across Oneida lake, thence down the Oswego river to Lake Ontario. This was, to a certain extent, the line suggested by Elnathan Sweet in his paper before the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1884. The Mohawk river was to be canalized into a series of level pools by means of dams. The bottom width was to be one hundred feet, the depth of water twenty feet, and the locks four hundred and fifty feet long by sixty feet wide. Huge elevator lifts were to be used, one at Cohoes of one hundred and thirty feet and another at Oswego of half that height. The length of the contemplated canal was one hundred eighty-two and one-half miles and the total cost of the enlargement was estimated at eighty-two million dollars. 10
Only twenty-seven boats were registered during the year 1895, of which seventeen were from two hundred and forty to two hundred and fifty tons. The total tonnage of the canals for the year was 3,500,314, compared with 1894, a loss of 1,000,692 tons, of which the loss in wheat was 622,996 tons and in corn, 177,453 tons. The total receipts of flour and grain delivered at the port of New York by all routes during the season of canal navigation was equivalent to 87,783,418 bushels, of which the canals brought 14,612,700 bushels or 17.08 per cent. These figures show a large falling off in the trade and tonnage of the canals for 1895.
This was another year of great commercial stagnation, although conditions were somewhat better than during the previous year. It had probably proved to be the most disastrous to canal interests of any within the past sixty years, by reason of the ruinous competition of the parallel railway lines and the comparative inefficiency of the canals. Without any apparent reason the railroads reduced their rates nearly fifty per cent below those of the year before, and to a point which was profitable neither to themselves nor to the boatmen. The Legislature had decided to refer the question of expending nine million dollars in canal improvements to the people at the November election. If the canals and their usefulness could be discredited by an overwhelming reduction in tonnage before the election, might not the vote upon the amendment be negatived and the canals remain in desuetude as a competitor? This explanation was officially suggested. 11
Certain obnoxious exactions by lock-tenders from the boatmen had gradually attained such proportions as to call for vigorous action by the Superintendent. Particularly was this the case at Lockport and at the "sixteens" near Cohoes. Boatmen had to pay tribute in passing these locks or suffer personal abuse, delays, swelling of boats against the walls, or flooding of their boats. It was little better than highway robbery and had been too often winked at by officials. During this season a vigorous effort at length effectually stamped out the system.
The condition of the bridge over the canal at West Main street, Rochester, demanded attention and, by chapter 625 of the laws of 1894, the State Engineer was required to prepare plans for a complete overhauling of the structure, or if the cost of these repairs should approach that of a new bridge, then to submit estimates for the latter to the Legislature. In September of 1894, Mr. George W. Rafter was instructed to visit and inspect movable bridges in Europe, with a view to the selection of some appropriate type adaptable to this and other points on the canal. Meantime certain repairs were made to the existing bridge, which bettered conditions materially.
Mr. Rafter submitted an interesting report to the State Engineer on January 15, 1895, reviewing the various forms of movable bridges in different countries, but he seemed to find no type among them particularly adapted to use upon the Erie canal, either for general service or at the Rochester crossing. He was impressed with the advantages of fixed bridges of high span with long easy approaches, both in point of beauty and utility, and recommended their use for canal crossings wherever practicable. 12
In view of Mr. Rafterís report, new plans were, therefore, prepared in 1895 for a lift-bridge, with pressure applied to cylinders by an accumulated weight operated by a water-wheel driven by water from the canal. But owing to the fact that local public opinion was divided as to whether a fixed or movable bridge was wanted, and to the unsettled questions arising from contemplated general improvements in the canal under the "Nine Million" act, the State Engineer, in January of 1896, recommended to the Legislature that no immediate action be taken. 13
Various devices for the propulsion of boats were at this time given careful consideration. The State Engineer recommended an electrical propelling device, invented by C. N. Dutton, as being superior to any yet tested, in the low cost of construction, the ease with which boats could pass without switches or double tracks, and the facility with which wide waters could be crossed. The economy in construction would insure to every boat a motor and screw, while only every fourth boat would need to be so supplied. In general terms, it consisted of a cable of twisted wires supported on posts; an adjustable propelling apparatus carried on the boat and a trolley pole, controlled by the steersman, and of a length sufficient to reach the conducting cable from any portion of the navigable canal. Bulgerís adjustable propelling apparatus with feathering paddles intended to eliminate bank wash was similarly brought to notice. 14
At the November election, in 1895, the people again expressed their determination that the canals should be improved and the law providing for their enlargement was ratified by a majority of 276,886. As soon as the State board of canvassers had declared the results of the ratification of the "Nine Million" law, which they did on December 12, the Comptroller advertised for sale bonds to the amount of two million dollars. Unfortunately, at this juncture, Venezuelan complications with Great Britain arose, and another Government bond sale was ordered, but notwithstanding these difficulties, $1,770,000 was sold on January 9, 1896, at a premium of 1.378. These were three per cent, ten-year bonds, due in 1906.
As to the manner in which the general improvements authorized by the "Nine Million" act should be executed, the Superintendent of Public Works held the opinion that any substantial improvement short of a deep waterway, or ship canal, should have as a central idea the increase in speed of boats of existing tonnage, rather than the increased section of waterway, and in his view the appropriation available was for the necessary rebuilding of dilapidated structures, the restoring of strength and durability to the canal and for putting it in perfect condition rather than for its enlargement, except as to depth. The purpose should be to increase the number of boat trips appreciably, in anticipation of the adoption of improved methods of propulsion by steam or electricity. 15
By January 13, 1896, surveys were started over the entire length of these three canals, a distance of four hundred and fifty-four miles. Twenty-eight survey sections were allotted to as many parties and over two hundred men were drawn from the civil service lists and put into the field, in order to obtain the necessary data for plans before navigation opened. This done, the forces were reduced and plans begun. For many years this method of improvement, commonly known as the "Seymour plan," had been the subject of general discussion. In the preparation of plans many unforeseen difficulties were presented. 16
To deepen the Lockport level of twenty-eight miles, much of it through rock, was a puzzling proposition. Assistant Engineer George W. Rafter was, therefore, assigned to make a thorough investigation of the question of water-supply from Lake Erie and other sources on the western division. On April 1, Mr. Rafter submitted his report, which appeared in Appendix I of the State Engineersí report for 1896. Thereafter during the year plans were made covering the improvements at Lockport.
The question of raising the banks or deepening the bottom, especially through cities, was often determined by the grade of important bridges or other structures or by extensive commercial establishments on the canal banks, again by the feeders and the heights of their dams, and in other cases by the level of important aqueducts or other controlling features. All of these difficult matters largely account for the seeming delay in beginning construction. 17
The river and harbor act, under date of June 3, directed the Secretary of War to cause to be made accurate examinations and estimates of the cost of a ship canal for the most practicable route, wholly within the United States, from the Great Lakes to the navigable waters of the Hudson river, of sufficient capacity to transport the tonnage of the lakes to the sea. The Secretary of War detailed Major T. W. Symons, Corps of Engineers, U.S.A., to prepare this report. It contains a discussion of the general proposition of the various routes and of the class of vessels adapted for their navigation. In its conclusions this report states that the route considered best for a ship canal is by the Niagara river, Lake Ontario, Oswego river, Oneida lake, and the Mohawk and Hudson rivers; also that the Erie canal, improved and enlarged and modified to give a continuously descending canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson, and the canalizing of the Mohawk river will give better results than a ship canal and at one-quarter the cost.
On April 1, 1898, this report was discussed at length before the House committee on rivers and harbors of the Fifty-fifth Congress by Mr. S. A. Thompson, of Duluth, who was later Secretary of the board of trade of Wheeling, West Virginia. This discussion contained a great amount of valuable information and was published by the Government printing office in 1900, under the title of "Proposed Ship Canal Connecting the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean." 18
In 1896 the United States Deep Waterways Commission published a report with map and sectional profile showing the most direct line through the Oswego-Oneida-Mohawk valleys, between Oswego and Troy, following the channels of the rivers and the lake and showing their materials. These were made by Wm. Pierson Judson and are described in the report by the United States Deep Waterways Commission to be "the first map and profile adequate for the consideration for a ship canal." These were also published separately with title "Lake Ontario to the Hudson River, 1896." 19
In the way of canal legislation for 1896 a radical difference in methods of appropriation was manifest. By the terms of chapter 947 a general tax of one-tenth of a mill was imposed, which was expected to yield revenue of about $425,000. Of this amount, in compliance with departmental suggestions, $50,000 was devoted to the installation of a general system of electric communications on the canals, and of the remainder $125,000 was available to each division for use in extraordinary repairs and improvements on that division. At the close of the year it was stated that the wisdom of this course had been fully vindicated and a similar appropriation of $360,000 was asked for the ensuing year. 20 The customary special appropriations for various canal purposes were almost entirely lacking in this yearís legislation. Very few of these were passed, and only for small amounts.
Chapter 881 of the laws of 1896 permitted floating elevators to be maintained on the canals at stations to be assigned by the Superintendent; chapter 794 amended chapter 79 of the previous year, as urged by the Superintendent, shortening the time of advertising contracts and so facilitating the work; while in the "Supply Bill" was an item appropriating ten thousand dollars for making further investigations as to the foundations of the proposed dam at Mount Morris and as to the best means of transporting materials to its site, and also for making detailed plans.
Navigation opened on the canal on May 1 and closed December 1, two hundred and fifteen days; the Hudson river was open from April 7 to December 19 and Lake Erie opened to navigation at Buffalo after April 19. Less trouble was experienced at the latter place, from low water in the canal, than in any previous year. It was hoped that the work to be done under the general improvement act would entirely relieve this trouble.
As promised, two or three more fleets of steel boats were added to the service during the season and were remarkably successful in their results. The trip from Cleveland to New York was made in from ten to twelve days, and the ability of the boats to withstand heavy gales while on the lake was encouraging. In the estimation of the projectors it was believed that they could successfully compete with railways as they then existed, at a fair margin of profit. 21
For the fiscal year ending September 30, 1896, the expense of ordinary repairs and maintenance was stated to be $1,006,453.70. The whole number of tons carried in 1896 by all canals was 3,714,894; of this there were east-bound, 2,605,012 tons; and of through freight, 2,132,956 tons; the Erie canal carried 2,742,438, an increase over 1895 of 214,580 tons. On agricultural products, however, there was an actual increase of 492,656 tons, the small total increase being due to losses in other products. As to comparative flour and grain receipts at the port of New York during the season of canal navigation, May 1 to December 1, the total receipts by all routes were equivalent to 112,121,954 bushels, of which the canals carried 31,672,499 bushels or twenty-eight and one-quarter per cent.
Under the fifty thousand-dollar appropriation to establish a system of electric communications, plans for two different methods of installation were obtained and submitted to an expert for examination and both were approved. The estimated cost was $150,000. Actual construction was deferred until the following season and a second appropriation of $50,000 was advocated in order to secure early completion and benefits from the system.
During the year plans under the general improvement act, to the amount of three and one-half million dollars, were prepared and contracts were let. Generally the work was to begin with the close of navigation.
At the close of the year the Superintendent stated that he had been assured by the State Engineer that the appropriation of nine millions of dollars would be sufficient to secure the depth contemplated in all three of the canals indicated, and added that the contract prices so far made would seem to warrant this prediction. 22 But the State Engineer in his report stated that this sum would not suffice to put the canals in their highest state of efficiency. 23 It was admitted to have been a year of unprecedented financial stress in which the resources of the banks had fallen off thirty million dollars, but Governor Black in his message of 1897 urged the energetic pushing of canal improvements, in order that the full value of the appropriation might be utilized, instead of being frittered away in commissions, boards and other expenses.
Locks Nos. 21 and 22 were placed under construction. These, with possibly lock No. 2, and the three at Newark, were believed to be all that would admit of lengthening in the usual manner. Lock No. 1, at Albany, was regarded as difficult and expensive to improve, and the fact that eighty-five per cent of canal traffic sought the river at West Troy rendered its improvement of doubtful expediency. In place of locks Nos. 3 to 18, known as the "sixteens" it was proposed to build a steel aqueduct from the head of lock No. 18 to a rocky point on the opposite bank of the river, and there to place a mechanical lift of one hundred and forty feet, capable of passing two boats at once. From here the river was to be canalized on the south side to the Champlain canal. The estimated cost of "improving" the existing sixteen locks and levels was $1,686,881. The mechanical lift-lock would cost about two-thirds of this sum. Among the many benefits to be gained by the proposed construction there may be mentioned the saving of thirty-four thousand dollars annually in lock-tending, and the abundant supply of water for the Cohoes mills. The four Little Falls locks would probably be lengthened in the usual manner. At Newark, the three locks were to be reduced to two of higher lift. At Lockport the difficulties were regarded as enormous, but finally plans for a mechanical lift, combined with a new alignment, were decided upon. These lift-locks were to be operated by compressed air, and the preparation of plans was conducted under the supervision of the inventor, Chauncey N. Dutton. 24
It was considered that under the blanket appropriation for each division, provided by chapter 947, the work on extraordinary repairs and improvements was greatly facilitated. The waters from serious leakages were collected and carried away in ditches; numerous deposits of silt under aqueducts and culverts were removed, adding to their safety and avoiding damage suits. Earthen or timber reservoir dams, especially on the middle division, were out of repair, and a great variety of work was done in connection with them, and still more was needed. They were considered to be in much better condition than for thirty years past, according to Division Engineer Gereís report. Several aqueducts required rebuilding and, as they were not expected to be rebuilt under the "Nine Million" act, they were paid for out of the blanket appropriations, and for reasons of economy in view of the forthcoming improvements, were made to carry nine instead of eight feet of water, as directed under the former act. 25
A popular misapprehension seemed to exist as to the scope of the "Nine Million" act, which the Superintendent in his report for 1896 hastened to correct. The general idea seemed to be that it was applicable to the reconstruction or improvement of any structure on any canal. But it was officially construed by the Department to mean that it could only be used on the Erie, Oswego or Champlain canals, and that no expenditures for construction should be made unless such improvement or construction was necessary to, and formed part of the general plan of improvement. It followed that improvements to locks, aqueducts, waste-weirs and culverts, and for cleaning out feeders, creeks, and like expenditures must be made under some other appropriation. 26
The improvements then under way and contemplated would result, it was believed, in a reduction of the tractive power required to move a given weight at a given speed. This would result either in shortening the time of a trip without increasing the motive power or in an increase of load and speed without an increase of power. Experiments so far seemed to warrant the expectation of lowering the cost of movement substantially, even though hampered by a restricted prism, owing to deposits of silt.
On February 22, 1897, the Superintendent of Public Works addressed a communication to the legislature upon the subject of the rate of wages paid by contractors on State work to unskilled laborers. Conditions then prevalent enabled the average working man to earn but twelve and one-half cents per hour, making one dollar for an eight-hour day, or six dollars per week, a sum insufficient for the support of himself and his family. It was suggested that the Legislature fix a minimum price of not less than fifteen cents per hour for unskilled labor on the canals and other State work. A bill was later introduced and passed by the Legislature to remedy this evil, but by clerical neglect it failed to come properly before the Governor and so did not become a law. 27
Under the provisions of the appropriation of ten thousand dollars (chapter 950, Laws of 1896) Engineer Rafter submitted a voluminous report on the Genesee river storage project, on January 1, 1897, which was embodied in the State Engineerís report for 1896 as Appendix VII. The State Engineerís department held that the restrictive clause in the law, confining further investigation to the site at Mount Morris, was inserted under the misunderstanding that this site had been finally selected after exhausting the possibilities of the project and that, in view of the fact that the act which passed the Legislature in 1895, but failed of approval, had left the question of location open, while providing a sum for further research, a fair interpretation of the intent of the law would still leave the question of the best location to be determined by further investigation, and with the concurrence of the Comptroller this view governed the work.
A new site at Portage was examined. By reason of its greater elevation five hundred feet of additional head could be utilized for commercial purposes. The solid rock foundation, found here at surface, and the narrower section of the canyon presented a saving of more than fifty per cent over the Mount Morris site in the cost of masonry for dam alone, and a dam one hundred and eighteen feet in height at this location, estimated to cost one million dollars, would provide storage for fifteen billion cubic feet as against a storage capacity of seven billion three hundred and seventy million cubic feet at the Mount Morris site. From a financial point of view, computations were made as to the relative power to be furnished by both the Mount Morris and the Portage projects and their value at the City of Rochester, by which the former was shown to be commercially impracticable and only to be constructed and maintained at an annual loss of many thousand dollars, while the Portage plan exhibited a net income of several hundred thousand dollars. 28
A careful examination of Mr. Rafterís report, together with the prior reports upon this gigantic scheme for storage and regulating works, leads the average reader to but one conclusion. While the proposition was admirable in plan, and entirely feasible from an engineering standpoint, its salient feature was its proposal to restore to the mill owners of Rochester and vicinity the volume of water which came to their wheels in years long gone by, and of which they were deprived, not so much by its diversion for canal purposes as by the deforestation of the catchment basin of the upper Genesee by owners of forest lands, and for this loss the State was asked in this manner to provide compensation. For the use of the canals it would appear that the existing works at Rochester would furnish ample supply.
Sundry bills were introduced in the Legislature of 1897, to prevent extortion and combination in transferring State canal grain, discriminations in freight rates against shippers by canal and to provide for State elevators. One of these, by Mr. Koehler, was to submit to the people at the next November election a proposition to issue three and a half millions in bonds, and with the proceeds buy all boats, harbor-tugs and Hudson river tow-boats used in the transportation of flour, grain and merchandise, and all dry docks and boat yards used in the repair and building of canal, tow and tug-boats plying between Buffalo and New York along the Erie canal and Hudson river, the ownership to be vested in the people and to be operated by the State, in order to cheapen transportation to the minimum rate between producer and consumer. These various measures were referred to committees and apparently died there. 29
Another change was made in the statute regulating chattel mortgages on canal-boats and craft, by section 92 of chapter 418, by which they were henceforth to be filed in the office of the Comptroller and not elsewhere.
Chapter 566 provided for a tax of nine and one-half hundredths of a mill, out of the proceeds of which three hundred and sixty thousand dollars was to be apportioned equally between the three divisions of the canal for extraordinary improvements and repairs, and fifty thousand additional for installing electric communication. Chapter 595 provided for the leasing of surplus waters of the improved canals at the discretion of the authorities. Chapter 415, known as the "labor law," gave preference to citizens of the state for employment upon public contract work, including the canals.
Under the sundry civil act of June 4, 1897, the President, on July 28, appointed a United States Board of Engineers on Deep Waterways, consisting of Major Charles W. Raymond, Corps of Engineers, U.S.A., Alfred Noble and George Y. Wisner. During this year and the three years following, appropriations were made, aggregating $485,000, which were expended by this board in exhaustive surveys of the waterways and routes through the Great Lakes and thence to tide-water. The resulting report of this board was presented to Congress on December 1, 1900. The lines examined by this board across New York State were: from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario; from Oswego, by way of the Oswego-Oneida-Mohawk valleys to the Hudson; and by way of the St. Lawrence river to Lake St. Francis, thence across the country to Lake Champlain and thence through Lake Champlain and the upper Hudson to tide-water. Estimates were made for both a twenty-one-and a thirty-foot depth on each of these routes.
The route from the Hudson river to Lake Ontario was divided into three portions which were as follows: that portion from Oswego to Herkimer, which was in charge of Albert J. Himes; [see errata] that portion from Herkimer to the Hudson, which was in charge of David J. Howell; and the subject of water-supply, which was in charge of George W. Rafter. These surveys and estimates included two projects through the Mohawk valley, one for a high level canal across the summit near Rome, and the other for a low level, cutting the summit down to the regulated level of Oneida lake. 30
Canal navigation opened May 8 and closed December 1, two hundred and eight days. Lake Erie was open from April 6, and the Hudson river from April 29 to December 7. The season was again an unusually dry one throughout the drainage area for supplying the canals, but owing to improvements recently made in storage capacity, no hindrance to navigation on the main canals occurred.
There were 2,332 boats navigating the Erie canal, of which 1,117 were grain carriers, and were rated as first, second and third-class. The others were classed as carriers of coal, lumber and other coarse freight. Most of them were old and rotten and required only a slight accident to sink them. Very few new boats had been built during the past ten years. Many were propelled by mule-power, such as had been in vogue for many years. Practically the only improvements were a few steam-propelled fleets. There were registered during the year eleven boats of two hundred and fifty tons, three boats of two hundred and forty tons, and one each of two hundred and twenty-five and one hundred tons.
The aggregate payments for ordinary repairs and maintenance for the year ending September 30, 1897, were $904,309.48, as against $1,006,453.70 for similar payments for the previous year. The total receipts of flour and grain at New York by all routes during the season of navigation, May 1 to November 30, 1887, were 140,030,101 bushels, of which the canals brought 20,998,561 bushels or 14.99 per cent. The whole number of tons of freight carried on the canals in 1897 was 3,617,804, of which more than two-thirds was east-bound and about one-half was through freight. Of the total tonnage the Erie canal carried 2,584,916. The tendency seemed to be toward a larger way freight business and a decrease in through freight.
The season was not a prosperous one for boatmen. Rates were unusually low and many owners preferred to tie up their boats rather than accept the rates offered. The principal causes were alleged to be deterioration of the canal prism, non-improvement of boats and motive power and excessive terminal charges at Buffalo and New York. The earnings of an elevator at Buffalo for handling a cargo of 200,000 bushels of grain at prevailing rates would be about $2,650. A single elevator, costing a quarter of a million dollars, was known to have paid for itself in a single year. Nearly all of them were under the control of a trust and received a share of the profits, whether operating or not. The Superintendent of Public Works considered that the better remedy would be to control these excessive charges by statutory limitation rather than to provide State elevators. 31
In his report at the beginning of 1898, State Engineer Adams also strongly presented the necessity of curbing excessive terminal grain charges in order to supplement the improvements of the physical features of the canal, claiming both to be necessary to the restoration of the commercial supremacy of New York City. In support of this argument numerous references were made to the report, already noted, of Major Symons to the Federal Government. 32
During the latter part of 1897 it began to be fully realized by those connected with the work of canal improvement and to be generally understood by the public that the whole amount of contemplated work could not be accomplished with the nine million dollars, and with these reports came rumors of alleged frauds and extravagance in the administration and prosecution of the undertaking.
At the beginning of 1898, Governor Black at once called the attention of the Legislature to the canals, saying that the work of deepening them, for which an appropriation of nine million dollars had been made, could not be completed for that sum. That amount had been disposed of and less than two-thirds of the improvement had been provided for. The Governor thought that the completion of the work should be considered as the last half of the same project, but it was a subject of the utmost importance and a problem too serious to be decided by the Legislature. The people had voted for the nine million appropriation and if a further sum was needed it should also receive the peopleís sanction.
The Governor asserted that New York City was not getting her share of commerce and intimated that this might be on account of a too narrow policy with reference to terminal facilities. If this were so, the State should open such facilities in New York harbor as would draw every pound of freight which would naturally come there. A broad and liberal policy was demanded, and competition -- especially Canadian -- should be feared and met. The Governor also advised the creation of a commission to examine into the cause of the decline and the means of reviving the commerce of New York. 33
On January 12, 1898, the State Engineer and the Superintendent of Public Works addressed a joint communication to the Governor stating that the original appropriation of nine million dollars would be insufficient to complete the work and that another large sum would be needed. This would require the submission of the question to popular vote, and in order that such vote might be intelligently taken, they recommended that a committee of examination and estimate, composed of the ablest and most impartial citizens, be appointed to consider the whole subject. 34
In both Senate and Assembly, bills were introduced relative to the appointment of an investigating committee to inquire into the expenditure of the nine million-dollar appropriation. Numerous amendments and substitutions were made and a bill of this nature finally became a law, known as chapter 15. 35 This bill, passed February 23, provided for the appointment by the Governor of a commission of from five to seven citizens to fully investigate and report upon the "nine million" improvement and all matters connected therewith. This report was to be made to the Governor by June 1, 1898, unless he should extend the commissionís time to July 1, and was to be open to the public and to be transmitted by the Governor to the next Legislature.
The commissioners appointed by Governor Black at once organized as follows: George Clinton, chairman; Franklin Edson, secretary; Smith M. Weed, Darwin R. James, Frank Brainard, A. Foster Higgins and William McEchron, commissioners. The commission appointed Edward P. North, consulting engineer, Lyman E. Cooley, advisory engineer, and Abel E. Blackmar, counsel. In addition to taking testimony, the commissioners personally inspected the most important points, and their engineers examined the entire line of the Champlain, Erie and Oswego canals. Their report (referred to later) was dated July 30, 1898.
But few other laws of importance affecting the canals were passed at this legislative session. Chapter 506 imposed a seven-hundredths of a mill general tax, from the proceeds of which three hundred and fifty thousand dollars was to be available for extraordinary repairs and improvements on the canals. Chapter 644, passed April 29, authorized the appointment of a commission of five by the Governor, to inquire into the condition of the commerce of New York, the causes of its decline and means of its revival, to summarize their conclusions, suggest advisable legislation and to report by January 15, 1899.
Work under the general improvement plan was stopped suddenly just as canal navigation was about to be resumed in the spring of 1898, and was left in such an unfinished state that the resources of both the ordinary and extraordinary funds were strained to the utmost limit to enable navigation to be resumed at all.
On July 30 the commission appointed to investigate the nine million-dollar improvement reported to Governor Black, their time having been extended to August 1, by the Legislature (chapter 327). Appended to their report 36 was one to the commissioners from their consulting engineer, Edward P. North, and their advisory engineer, Lyman E. Cooley. Thereupon Governor Black appointed Judge Edwin Countryman to examine the report, to determine whether legal proceedings -- civil or criminal - should be begun, and if so, against whom and in what way.
The report contained numerous criticisms of both State Engineer Campbell W. Adams and Superintendent of Public Works George W. Aldridge. Thereafter, on September 12, Mr. Adams addressed a communication to Governor Black which he termed a "statement on his part" in reply to certain features of the report of the investigating commission. This explanatory statement was published in the State Engineerís annual report for 1898. 37
The publication of these documents was made the basis of an acrimonious controversy which was taken up by the public press and colored according to the various attitudes of the writers upon the question of canal improvement. It cannot be disputed that this was a critical period in the history of the canals. The people of the state had generously authorized the appropriation of a sum which they had been told was sufficient to complete the improvements desired. Their sense of disappointment at the results was keen and the blame fell heavily. The criticism by the commission was of dual nature. The State Engineer was blamed for the fact that the nine million-dollar appropriation did not cover the cost of the proposed improvement. This involved the charges of insufficient estimates, lack of foreknowledge of the peculiar difficulties encountered in construction, and improper classification of materials excavated. The Superintendent of Public Works was largely censured for extravagant and unnecessary expenditures during construction.
Adverting to the period of the Constitutional Convention in 1894, we notice that when the canal amendments were under discussion, the State Engineer was called upon for estimates. But no available data were at hand. For several years prior the State Engineers had urged the Legislatures to appropriate money for a thorough survey for contemplated improvements, but without success. However, upon the inadequate information at hand and the notes of the old Van Buren survey (1876), which the investigating commissioners themselves examined and pronounced worthless for the purpose, the estimate was made and delivered to the Convention within twelve days. It was expressly stated to be but a guess, assuming all conditions to be favorable, and was not nine million but eleven million five hundred and seventy-three thousand dollars, with another million needed for repairing and rebuilding walls. The Legislature, later, without consulting Mr. Adams, as he states, reduced the amount to an even nine million dollars, as being all that the people would be willing to authorize at the time. The statute required the work to be commenced within three months.
The department endeavored to rush through a complete new survey, which could not be so thorough as the conditions demanded. The result of the survey was that the estimates were raised to thirteen and a half millions, exclusive of engineering, advertising or inspection, or fifteen millions in all. Later this was revised and made sixteen million dollars. For the discrepancy between the ever-increasing estimates and the appropriation of nine million dollars, Mr. Adams was at the time severely criticized, though always denying the responsibility. Later developments seem to have amply justified his denial and to place the blame upon the Legislature, where it justly belongs. In speaking of this subject, Governor Theodore Roosevelt, in a message transmitting the report of the New York Commerce Commission to the Legislature on January 25, 1900, said in his usual direct and emphatic style: "I desire especially to call your attention to that portion of the Commerce Commissionís report which shows the main source of the trouble over the nine million dollar expenditure for improvements under the Act of 1895. The Commerce Commissionís report makes it perfectly clear that there never was sufficient authority, or indeed any authority for supposing that this nine million dollars would be enough to complete the work, and that a sum was named which was entirely insufficient. It was doubtless believed to be easier to get the small sum than a large one." 38
The original contracts were let upon the unit system, which has been in vogue for many years upon public works -- that is, so much per cubic yard for rock or earth actually excavated. There always have been and always will be advocates of the "lump sum" method of bidding, as opposed to the "unit system." Mr. Adams summed it tersely by saying that so long as the State got value received for every yard paid for, it made little difference whether the original estimates were too high or too low, the final estimate, upon which payment was based, showing just what the original estimate would have been, if absolutely correct.
During the period of construction, when the water in the prism was necessarily entirely drawn off, at some places for the first time in many years, the footings of the banks and walls were thus exposed to the action of frost and floods. Imperfections in the work of former years were revealed, structures were further disintegrated, unexpected difficulties developed and the cost was largely increased. Especially was this the case through Buffalo and other cities.
The investigating commissioners stated that the new work was well done, that prices bid were reasonable and that the contracts were let to the lowest bidder. They called attention to the high value of the canals as the cheapest means of transportation, both in the past and at present, and as a freight regulator. They severely condemned the dual system of control and advised that the sole responsibility be vested in one department, preferably that of the State Engineer. They recommended the continuation of the improvement, regardless its cost, with more accurate studies of the conditions and specifications; also that proper compensation be exacted from parties using surplus water and that none but surplus water be so used; that the practice of erecting structures on canal lands, and of emptying sewers therein, be stopped; and that an experimental pneumatic lock be built only at Newark. The commission further called attention to the fact that the entire cost of construction, enlargement and maintenance of the canals up to 1885 was $102,345,123, while the total tolls received were $134,648,900, to which could be added the enormous aggregate representing their indirect influence on the prosperity of the State.
On July 1, 1898, Engineer G. W. Rafter, acting under his instructions of December 31, 1897, made a final report to the State Engineer upon the results of further tests as to the strength of concrete blocks, in connection with the Genesee storage project. His conclusions were that the successful use of concrete required the oversight of a man of high intelligence, thoroughly versed in the possibilities of the material, that all thumb rule methods should be avoided and that dry mixing and thorough ramming should be enforced. 39
Navigation on the canals opened May 7 and closed December 10, 1898. The Hudson river was open from March 14 to December 12, and the lake ports after March 25. The season again did not prove a prosperous one to the boatmen. But four new boats were registered, one each of one hundred and fifty and one hundred and twenty-five tons, and two of one hundred tons. The total tonnage of the canals for the year was 3,360,063, of which 2,314,050 tons were east-bound and 1,046,013 tons were west-bound. Of through freight 1,573,227 tons were carried, of which 1,111,699 tons were east-bound. Of the gross tonnage, the Erie canal carried 2,338,020 tons. The aggregate payments for ordinary repairs and maintenance for the fiscal year of 1898, were $923,903.67.
On November 28, 1898, Judge Countryman filed with the Governor his report and findings upon the report of the canal investigation commission. Thereupon the Superintendent of Public Works, George W. Aldridge, requested the Governor to suspend him from his office, pending the result of the judicial inquiry into his official acts. On December 2, Governor Black so suspended him and directed the Attorney-General to present his case to the grand jury. The Attorney-General, under these directions from the Governor, assigned Benjamin J. Shove, one of his deputies, to ascertain when, where and what crimes had been committed in connection with the canal enlargement and to proceed with prosecutions. 40
At an early date in 1899, after submitting the report of the commission and Judge Countrymanís conclusions thereon to the Legislature as required by law, Governor Roosevelt, impressed with the importance of the matter, appointed additional counsel, Messrs. Austin G. Fox and Wallace Macfarlane, to assist the Attorney-Generalís office in further examination as to whether the case should be submitted to a grand jury.
On April 7, Messrs. Fox and Macfarlane wrote to the Governor asking an immediate appropriation to enable them to further examine witnesses, and this communication was at once sent to the Legislature by the Governor, with the request for immediate attention. 41 In compliance, the Legislature, on May 2, by chapter 495, appropriated twenty thousand dollars for the expenses of inquiry into matters pertaining to the awarding and performance of canal improvement contracts, with the proviso that the special counsel should report progress within three months thereafter. Also, chapter 569 appropriated five thousand dollars for salary and expenses of Benjamin J. Shove, Deputy Attorney-General.
After due consideration, Messrs. Fox and Macfarlane made their final report to the Governor. In substance they found that most of the matters under consideration were barred by the statute of limitation and as to the remaining matters, while there was evidence of conduct justifying severe criticism and public indignation, there was not enough to warrant criminal proceedings. This report was attached to the Governorís annual message for 1900.
In reply to a Senate resolution of January 19, 1899, State Engineer Edward A. Bond and Superintendent of Public Works John N. Partridge, on February 6, submitted a tabulated statement of all contracts let under the provisions of the "nine million" act, together with the existing status of those unfinished and the amount and time required to finish them, the figures being given from department records. The total amount paid on contracts was $7,238,795.08, the amount retained, $694,162.58, making total paid or due on contracts, $7,932,957.66. There had been paid for advertising, $92,320.70, inspection, $180,501.36, disinfectants, $6,482.49, miscellaneous, $227.44, engineering, $820,000. The total of all payments made or due was $9,032,489.65, making a deficit of $32,489.65. To this deficit should be added the estimated amount required to finish contracts, $4,430,007.88, engineering $236,600, and inspection $101,400, making the total amount required to complete awarded contracts, $4,800,497.53. One more season would be required to complete most of the contracts, a few others would require two seasons, while several would apparently take three seasons to complete. 42
On May 5 the Legislature, by chapter 544, enlarged the powers of the canal board in settling unfinished contracts made under this act, authorizing them to terminate existing contracts, and to pay off the contractor, including the ten per cent reserved. Few other canal laws were passed at the session of 1899. Chapter 208 provided a seven-hundredths-mill general tax, from the proceeds of which three hundred and fifty thousand dollars was set aside for extraordinary repairs and improvements of mechanical and other structures, and works connected with the canals.
On January 18, 1899, the commission on commerce of New York, appointed by Governor Black under the act of April 29, 1898, and consisting of Charles A. Schieren, Andrew H. Green; C.C. Shayne, Hugh Kelly and Alexander R. Smith, reported that, owing to a defect in the statute under which they were acting, they were left without funds to pursue the investigation properly. They recommended a continuance of the committee under improved conditions. 43 Governor Roosevelt, in his annual message, also endorsed this recommendation, and by chapter 494, the commission was given an extension of time until November 1, 1899, in which to make final report and the sum of fifteen thousand dollars was appropriated for their expenses.
Chapter 519, passed May 4, authorized the canal board to permit the construction of a pneumatic lock and canal connections, in place of the "sixteens" at Cohoes at the expense of private parties and provided for their subsequent rental or purchase by the State upon completion, at the option of the canal board, if found upon due trial to operate satisfactorily. The minutes of the canal board do not show that the required permit was subsequently granted.
Governor Roosevelt, on March 8, appointed a new committee, consisting of Gen. Francis V. Greene, chairman, Frank S. Witherbee, Major Thomas W. Symons, U.S.A., John P. Scatcherd and Geo. E. Greene, who, together with Edward A. Bond, State Engineer, and John N. Partridge, Superintendent of Public Works, were to consider the whole canal question and report upon the proper policy to be pursued by the State in the future. By this means the Governor was enabled to obtain an opinion from prominent engineers and business men who, after thorough and careful investigation, could be relied upon to give an able and unbiased decision, and one which, from the personnel of the committee, would be considered authoritative by the general public. The appointment of such a committee was most opportune at this time. The inadequacy of the canals to meet the growing needs of commerce had long been conceded. The first enlargement was scarcely completed in 1862, before the need of further improvements was realized, and for years attempts had been made to reach a solution of the canal problem, until in 1895, the question was supposed to be settled for many years. Now, after the miscarriage of that project, opinions, both expert and popular, were so varied that a guiding hand was needed. The people had evinced a willingness to approve whatever undertaking was necessary, if an adequate policy were designated, but they were in no mood to temporize or experiment and this office of guidance the committee fulfilled. From its appointment may be dated the beginning of the Barge canal enterprise, although a very similar scheme had been advocated by State Engineer Martin Schenck in 1892.
The Erie canal was opened to navigation on April 26, 1899, and closed on December 1, making the longest season since 1882. The season was a prosperous one for boatmen. Rates were remunerative and on some freights unusually high. More boats could have been used to advantage, but the building and registry of new ones seems to have ceased. The Hudson river opened April 17 and closed December 15, while the lake was free from ice on April 28.
The cost of ordinary repairs and operating expenses on the canals of the state for the fiscal year ending October 1, 1899, was given as $867,148.41. The total receipts for flour and grain by all routes at New York, from May 1 to November 30, were 125,464,839 bushels, of which the canals carried about thirteen per cent. The total tons of freight carried on the canals during 1899 was 3,686,051, of which 2,425,292 tons went eastward and 1,260,759 tons westward. There were 1,692,972 tons of through and 1,993,079 tons of way freight. Of the through freight 1,164,605 tons went eastward, and 528,307 tons westward and of the way freight 1,260,627 tons went eastward, and 732,452 tons westward.
On January 25, 1900, the New York Commerce Commission, appointed by Governor Black in 1898, and continued under a legislative act of 1899, submitted to the Governor a voluminous report, which was transmitted by him to the Legislature and published as an Assembly document of that year. 44 The report assigned, as a leading cause of the decline, the differential rates on all western traffic. These rates had been agreed upon in combination between trunk line railways to the seaboard, discriminating against New York in favor of other Atlantic seaports. As a contributing cause, the report mentioned the excessive terminal charges. The commission especially censured the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Company for participating in such agreement, and demanded its withdrawal therefrom.
The commission recommended, as the best remedy, that the State should complete the improvement of its canals under the nine million plan, by the further expenditure of a sum not to exceed fifteen million dollars, after the submission of a bonding bill for that purpose to the people at the next election. The commission also advised that suitable terminal piers and facilities should be provided both at Buffalo and New York exclusively for canal traffic; that elevator charges should be reduced to a maximum rate of one-half cent per bushel on grain; that the limitation of the capital stock of transportation companies to fifty thousand dollars should be repealed; that the City of New York should endeavor speedily to supply the demands of commerce for modern piers, and that the Legislature should aid the effort in every way practicable.
The committee appointed by Governor Roosevelt on March 8, 1899, to advise as to the future canal policy of the State, continued its investigations during that year and reported to the Governor under date of January 15, 1900. The report showed a very exhaustive study of the whole question and was accompanied by many maps and tables, the records of public hearings and a large correspondence with those who were qualified to advise on the subject. After careful consideration the committee most emphatically recommended that the canals should not be abandoned, [original text has "abandone".] but that the Erie, Champlain and Oswego canals should be enlarged -- the Erie to a size suitable for thousand-ton barges, the Champlain and Oswego to a nine-foot depth, according to the 1895 project. It also recommended that the Black river and the Cayuga and Seneca canals should be maintained as navigable feeders, but not enlarged; that the scheme for a ship canal was a proper subject for consideration by the Federal Government, but not by the State of New York; that the money for the improvements should be raised by bond-issues to be paid by taxes upon the counties bordering on the canals, the Hudson river and Lake Champlain; and that $200,000 should be immediately appropriated for making detailed surveys in order to consummate the proposed project. As the efficiency of the canals depends upon their management as much as upon their physical size, the committee also recommended that large transportation companies for handling canal business should be encouraged by removing all restrictions as to the amount of capital; that steam or electric propulsion and mechanical power for operating gates and valves and for moving boats in locks should be employed; that State forces on public works should be so organized on a permanent basis as to afford an attractive career to able men; and that the laws should be so revised in regard to the letting of contracts as to make impossible a repetition of former unfortunate results.
If enlarged as recommended, the Erie canal would be of a size suitable for the use of boats one hundred and fifty feet long, twenty-five feet wide and drawing ten feet of water. Such boats were estimated to carry one thousand tons each and a four-boat steam fleet would carry thirty-nine hundred tons, or one hundred and thirty thousand bushels of wheat. The prism would have a depth of twelve feet, a bottom width of seventy-five feet, with side slope of one on two. The locks would be three hundred and ten feet long in the clear, twenty-eight feet wide, with eleven feet of water on the sills. The proposed route followed very closely the line on which the Barge canal is at present being built, and which will be found described a little later in this chapter. The committee estimated that the Erie could be thus enlarged for $58,894,668, which, together with $818,120 for the Oswego and $1,824,000 for the Champlain, would make $61,536,788, or in round numbers, $62,000,000, as the total expense of completing their recommended improvements.
The Legislature considered this report favorably and on April 12, 1900, enacted chapter 411, directing the State Engineer to cause surveys, plans and estimates to be made for improving the Erie, Champlain and Oswego canals as recommended by the committee on canals, except that an alternate project was added for enlarging the Oswego to the same size as proposed for the Erie. A sum of $200,000 was appropriated for doing this work, which, by action of the canal board, was afterward made to include the survey and estimate for a canal between Lakes Erie and Ontario around the falls of Niagara. A large force of engineers was immediately placed in the field and careful topographic surveys were made, together with frequent borings and a special study of water-supply, conducted by Mr. Emil Kuichling. When the field work was finished, the men were transferred to the office and complete plans and estimates were prepared in time to report to the Governor on February 12, 1901. Much of the territory along the lines of the proposed improvements had recently been traversed by the Deep Waterway surveys, and, as the results of these surveys were made available to the State by the Federal Government, the preliminary work was accomplished economically and expeditiously. The plans for the Champlain canal were all made from former surveys. The State Engineer associated with himself a company of eminent engineers, as an advisory board, and many others, for making surveys and plans, who were experts in their various fields of work, so that a general confidence was established in the accuracy and completeness of the resulting plans and estimates.
Special appropriations at this time were again becoming numerous. In most cases the work was required to be done under the supervision of the Superintendent of Public Works. Of these special canal works, eighteen contracts were completed during 1900, at a total cost of $184,293.52, exclusive of engineering, on which the original estimates were $229,127.88. Fifty-eight pieces of work were authorized by special appropriations. Thirty-three of these were placed under contract, and twenty-five were processed on State force account. Chapter 311, passed April 6, 1900, provided the usual $350,000 for extraordinary improvements on canal structures and works.
As told more fully elsewhere in this volume, for several years disastrous breaks had occurred in the Forestport feeder, which were believed to be of malicious origin. These breaks, in 1897-8-9, cost the State over one hundred and thirty thousand dollars for repairs. With the approval of the Governor, the aid of Pinkerton detectives was obtained and as a result thirteen indictments in connection with the matter were found, and a salutary lesson was administered.
Canal navigation opened April 25, and closed December 1, but the last east-bound boats were delayed by a break near Rome until December 10. The Hudson river was open to navigation from April 9 to December 11. The total receipts of grain and flour by all routes at New York, from May 1 to December 1, 1900, were 105,715,669 bushels, of which the canals brought 13.33 per cent. Expenditures for maintenance and ordinary repairs for the fiscal year were $959,896.63, as against $867,148.41 for the previous year. The Superintendent attributes the increase to the operation of the eight-hour law, which largely increased pay-rolls, especially for bridge and lock-tending.
The total tonnage for 1900 was 3,345,941, as against 3,686,051 tons for the previous year, a falling off of 340,110 tons. Of the total freight carried 2,115,151 tons went eastward and 1,230,790 tons westward. There were 1,362,550 tons of through and 1,983,391 tons of way freight. Of the through freight 857,607 tons went eastward and 504,943 tons westward, and of the way freight 1,257,544 tons went eastward and 725,847 tons westward. The decrease was probably attributable to a rate war between boatmen and shippers, many boats being tied up at Buffalo awaiting higher rates; also to the late opening of lake navigation (April 23), and to the coal strike which reduced shipments of that article, especially on the Champlain canal. Another important reason was the unsettled canal policy, under which boat-building had ceased and many of the existing boats had become so dilapidated that some were obliged to go out of commission, while others were unable to get grain insurance.
In 1900 there was another general discussion of the canal question among prominent engineers. This was provoked by a paper presented by Mr. Joseph Mayer, which was published in the October proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers, entitled "Canals between the Lakes and New York." At the same time Mr. George Y. Wisner presented another paper entitled "Economic Dimensions for a Waterway from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic." These papers treated the subject very fully and were discussed at length in the proceedings of November and December, 1900, by Major T. W. Symons, Archibald A Schenck, Thomas C. Clarke, Edward P. North, Thomas Monro, Frank A. Hinds, Elnathan Sweet, W. Henry Hunter, Theodore G. Hoech, Alfred Noble and Lewis M. Haupt. The papers were further discussed in the proceedings for February, 1901, by other members; Rudolph Hering, George Y. Wisner, R. P. J. Tutein-Nolthenius, Joseph Mayer and George W. Rafter.
On February 12, 1901, State Engineer Edward A. Bond submitted to the Governor a full and complete report 45 of the surveys of the previous year, together with estimates for a thousand-ton barge canal by several different routes from the Hudson river to the lakes. On March 15 Governor Odell presented this report to the Legislature with a special message, summarizing routes and costs, which appeared as Senate Document No. 38.
The first route proposed was by way of the Mohawk and Seneca rivers, the distance from Troy to Buffalo being 342.56 miles, including improvements to the Oswego canal from Three River Point to Oswego, nine miles, and of the Champlain canal from Troy to Whitehall, at a total cost of $78,496,446, from which estimate the value of abandoned lands is to be deducted, amounting on the Erie canal to $1,941,380, and upon the Champlain canal, $22,620, which leaves the net cost, $76,532,446.
The second route proposed was by way of the Mohawk and Oswego rivers, via Olcott to Buffalo, using Lake Ontario, a total distance of 338.66 miles, with improvements to the Erie canal, amounting to $46,765,755, the Oswego canal, amounting to $5,170,129, and the Champlain canal at a cost of $4,750,608, making the total gross cost of $56,686,492, from which should be deducted the estimated value of abandoned lands on the Erie canal, $1,953,202, leaving the net cost, $54,708,729.
The third route was by way of the Mohawk and Oswego rivers and Lake Ontario, via Lewiston to Buffalo, a total distance of 347.57 miles, at a total cost of $48,984,220 for the Erie canal, $5,170,129 for the Oswego canal, and $4,750,608 for the Champlain canal, making a total cost of $58,904,957, from which should be deducted the value of abandoned lands, as in the case of the Oswego-Mohawk route, leaving the net total cost, $56,926,744.
The fourth route was by way of the present canal -- modified -- from Troy to Buffalo, 347.66 miles, at a cost of $81,578,854; for improving the Oswego canal, $1,481,012, and the Champlain canal, $5,787,929, making a total cost of $88,847,795, from which should be deducted the estimated value of abandoned lands on the Erie canal, $1,530,225, leaving the net cost, $87,317,570. To this total should be added the improvement of the Hudson river from Troy to Watervliet, $737,683, and improving Black Rock harbor, $538,051, a total of $1,275,734. These latter items were to be added to each of the above estimates if the United States Government should not do this work.
For the purpose of comparison the Governor presented the cost of completing improvements of the canals along the nine million-dollar plan, under the act of 1895, as amounting to $19,797,828, divided as follows: the eastern division, $5,825,386; the middle division, $2,086,987; the western division, $7,060,950; the Champlain canal, $2,689,117; and the Oswego canal, $2,135,388. To this should be added the value of the property taken or injured by this improvement.
As to the comparative cost to the taxpayers it was assumed that money could be borrowed at three per cent interest and that the constitutional bond limit was eighteen years. Providing for a reduction of one-eighteenth each year, the total cost, including interest, would be:
By the first plan, $97,197,206.42, or $5,399,789 annually.
By the second plan, $69,479,514, or $3,859,973 annually.
By the third plan, $72,296,964, or $4,016,498 annually.
By the fourth plan, $110,893,313, or $6,160,739 annually.
By the fifth plan, $25,143,241, or $1,396,846 annually.
Upon the estimated valuation of that date, the total cost per $1,000 would be: first plan, $17.14; second, $12.25; third, $12.74; fourth, $19.55; fifth, $4.43.
These plans and estimates, as required by chapter 411, Laws of 1900, provided for not less than twelve feet of water throughout the Erie canal for boats of one hundred and fifty feet in length by twenty-five feet in width and of ten feet draught, with a cargo capacity of about one thousand tons; the bottom width to be not less than seventy-five feet, with a cross-sectional area of not less than eleven hundred and twenty-five square feet, except where modified through cities, and not less than eleven feet of water was to be provided for in locks and over structures. The locks were to be three hundred and ten feet in the clear, by twenty-eight wide. The Oswego canal was to have nine feet of water in the prism generally, eight feet of water in locks and over structures. Locks were required to pass boats of eight feet draught, seventeen and one-half feet wide by one hundred and four feet long. Other plans were also made to correspond with the dimensions of those of the Erie canal. The Champlain canal plans provided for deepening to seven feet of water, to pass boats having six feet draught, ninety-eight and one-half feet long by seventeen and one-half feet wide. 46
These various plans were subsequently considered by the Legislature, but differences of opinion among the friends of canal improvement prevented concentration upon any one plan. In the Senate a bill to issue bonds not to exceed twenty-six million dollars for canal enlargement and to submit the proposition to the people in November following was advanced to a third reading but was finally tabled. In the Assembly a similar bill was introduced, but failed to get beyond second reading. 47
By the terms of chapter 81, Laws of 1900, additional powers had been conferred upon the canal board, enabling it to hear, determine and settle in full contractorsí claims connected with the cessation of work under the "nine million" act. Under this act sixteen contractors filed claims up to the close of 1901, the claims amounting to $1,038,870.98. These cases were heard and awards made amounting to $473,458.59, or about 45 Ĺ per cent of the claims. 48
Carrying out the policy of the previous half dozen years, chapter 347 appropriated $325,000 for extraordinary repairs and improvements of existing mechanical and other structures and works connected with the canals.
In reply to a Senate resolution of March 20, the Superintendent of Public Works informed the Senate that at that date there were 207 ĺ miles of poles and wires strung along the banks of the canals within the "blue line," and in addition twenty-eight miles of this were duplicated by other lines. These were for the various purposes of power, light, heat and message transmission, most of them by formal permits from the department, but not all; some probably by verbal permission of division and section superintendents. 49
After 1890 the general law governing transportation corporations provided that navigation companies might be formed with not less than twenty thousand dollars as a minimum limit. At that period huge corporations were rapidly obtaining control of elevators and other terminal facilities. Traffic had been diverted from the canals, both by excessive terminal charges and by the connections of these navigation companies with other and competing transportation lines. The individual boatman of limited capital, whose welfare as the partner of the State was a matter of concern, became alarmed lest he should be entirely driven from the canals, and in his interests chapter 935, Laws of 1896, amended the law of 1890 by inserting "canals and other water-ways" among the routes to be operated, and adding, "No corporation organized under this act and designed to navigate any of the canals shall have a capital stock exceeding $50,000." The minimum also was lowered to $5,000. This situation was continued until 1901, but as it failed to produce the beneficial results hoped for, chapter 483, of the latter year, again amended the law by substituting, for the $50,000 limit, the following: "No railroad corporation shall have, own or hold any stock in any such corporation." Both the New York Commerce Commission and the "Greene" Committee on Canals had advocated the repeal of this restrictive measure.
The work of supplementing improvements partially completed under the "nine million" act was inaugurated upon the suspension of those contracts and carried on through 1899 and 1900 and was continued through 1901, so far as money could be spared from the extraordinary repair funds. This work was carefully selected from that most urgently required to preserve the integrity of the canals as a whole and directly to maintain navigation.
As to special legislative appropriations the year began with seventeen unfinished pieces of work, for which the appropriations amounted to $203,420.29, which were all completed for $167,869.08, exclusive of engineering. Of the thirty-six pieces authorized during the year twenty-four were started, twelve under contract and twelve done by State force. The appropriations for the contracts were $177,457.83; they were awarded for $152,369.60. Of the State force work eight pieces were completed for $18,697.06, for which appropriations were $19,500.
The Erie canal opened to navigation May 7, 1901, more than two weeks later than the previous season, and closed at midnight of November 30. The season was an unusually prosperous one for boatmen, the amount of business being limited only by the number of boats available. The Hudson river was open from March 28 to December 1, and the harbor at Buffalo after April 20. The ice closed in three days prior to the date of closing. Every effort was made to assist belated boats, but in spite of this one hundred and thirteen loaded boats were caught in transit on the Erie canal.
The expenditures for the maintenance and ordinary repairs of canals for the fiscal year were $972,633.23. The total tonnage for the year was 3,420,613, an increase of 74,672 tons. The total east-bound tonnage was 2,276,199, and west-bound, 1,144,414. The total through tonnage was 1,312,526, of which 858,622 tons were east-bound and 453,904 tons west-bound. The total way tonnage was 2,108,087, of which 1,417,577 tons went east and 690,510 tons west.
The triple fleet of eighteen steel canal boats, built at Cleveland and placed in commission in 1898, which had been regarded by friends of the canal as a hopeful sign of its future prosperity, were withdrawn and sent to the Philippines, where greater opportunities for profit existed. The owners admitted that the boats had made money, but alleged that the profits were meagre because of the lack of terminal facilities at Buffalo and New York, stating that the decline in rates could be met by boats, if it were possible to secure dispatch in discharging, and that the canal was destined to be a failure without such facilities. 50
During the legislative session of 1902, the question of canal policy again held a prominent place. At the beginning of the year, Governor Odell submitted two recommendations to the Legislature:
First, that the proposal to enlarge the canal locks to one thousand-ton barge capacity and to provide a new channel from the Hudson river to Rexford Flats (at a cost of $13,694,540) be submitted to the people as a proposition by itself.
Second, that the canal be deepened to nine feet on such portions as were less than that depth (at an additional cost of $15,076,936) and that this proposition also be submitted to the people for their approval or disapproval. 51
Numerous bills authorizing bond issues for canal improvement were introduced in both Houses of the Legislature. In the Assembly one for $37,800,000 was considered. Among the substitutes offered was one for abandoning the canals and constructing railway tracks exclusively for freight traffic in the beds. This bill was defeated on final vote by sixty-seven to sixty-three. Other bills for various amounts failed to emerge from committee, both in the Assembly and Senate. 52
On April 1 there was an occurrence in the Senate which commands our notice, because of its unique character, standing almost alone in legislative acts of this nature. A concurrent resolution was offered and referred to the committee on commerce and navigation, calling attention to the conspicuous services of Major Thomas W. Symons, who, having been for eight years past stationed in New York State and having been recently transferred to Washington, D.C., had given gratuitously a great amount of time to the study of the canal problem of the State and had materially aided in its solution. The resolution expressed appreciation of his able, broad-minded and public-spirited labors in behalf of the State. 53
But little canal legislation appears in the form of special statutes, although a large number of pieces of work were required by legislative appropriations to be constructed under the direction of the Superintendent of Public Works. These were authorized under sections of the general appropriation and supply bills. Chapter 183 appropriated $250,000 for extraordinary repairs in the usual form. Chapter 420 appropriated $45,000 to replace the Forestport dam by one of masonry or concrete.
Erie canal navigation opened April 24, 1902, the earliest date for twenty years. It closed December 4, being held open several days beyond the official closing date to accommodate belated coal shipments. Notwithstanding the lengthened season, the tonnage fell off 146,167 tons from that of 1901. This decrease was coincident in time with, and directly due to, the anthracite coal strike of this year. But for this, the tonnage would have shown an increase. Prices received by boatmen were much better than had been customary. Obviously the abandonment of many dilapidated boats and the failure to replace them with new ones, and the still unsettled condition of canal policy also had a direct bearing on the gross tonnage carried. 54
The expenditures for ordinary repairs and maintenance of the canals and the collection and compiling of statistics for the year ending September 30, 1902, were $931,051.59. Of extraordinary repairs the Superintendent says that there were sixteen unfinished pieces on January 1, 1902, all of which had since been completed. The appropriations for them were $323,496.05, and the work was done for $282,272.48, exclusive of engineering. Twenty-four pieces were authorized during the session of 1902. Of these, twenty were started and of these twenty, thirteen were placed under contract for $197,916.85, for which the appropriations were $247,583.06. The remaining seven were undertaken by State forces; two of these, for which the appropriations were $9,000, had been completed for $8,571.97. 55
The total flour and grain receipts at New York by all routes, from May 1 to December 1, were 74,651,355 bushels, of which the canals carried 15.84 per cent. The total canal tonnage for 1902 was 3,274,446. Way freight east was 1,502,553 tons; west-bound was 669,986 tons; through freight east was 752,194 tons and west-bound, 349,713 tons.
During the year claims on account of the nine million improvement were filed and passed upon by the Court of Claims, in which the amount claimed was $656,326.94, upon which judgments adverse to the State amounted to $142,195.21. 56
Speaking of economy in canal repairs, State Engineer Bond called attention to the great improvement during recent years in the manufacture of American Portland cement and the advantage and economy to be obtained by substituting concrete for the much more expensive cut-stone masonry. These advantages had been fully recognized by the engineering department, it being considered that the best class of concrete instead of cut stone would give better results at less than half the cost. 57
At the beginning of the year 1903, Governor Odell expressed his conviction that the compromise canal measure to complete the canals by deepening to nine feet, while providing locks of size sufficient to pass thousand-ton barges, in view of possible further enlargement, which failed to pass the Legislature of 1902, so failed because of a conviction on the part of many of the members that such a plan was inadequate to meet the requirements of commerce. Wise and considerate action was urged by the Governor. The commercial bodies in Buffalo and New York stood pledged to the Barge canal plan. Means of revenue to meet the obligations were discussed by the Governor and constitutional extension of the bonding period to fifty years and return to a system of tolls, which would render the system self-maintaining, were suggested. 58
The Legislature at once took up the problem of the canals. Assembly bill No. 330 provided for the issue of $82,000,000 in bonds to provide for the expense of improvement, based upon the plans and estimates made by State Engineer Bond in 1900. As usual this canal legislation met with bitter opposition. The following professedly favorable measure may be cited as an example of the methods used to delay action. On January 22 resolutions were introduced in the Senate, reciting the fact that the United States Government had expended four hundred and eighty-five thousand dollars for an engineering commission during 1897-1899 to make complete surveys for deep waterways; that the commission reported on page 33 of its report that a down-grade canal from Tonawanda to Utica probably could be safely constructed; that competent engineers asserted that such a plan would not only meet all commercial requirements but would develop water-power throughout the line from Lake Erie worth hundreds of millions of dollars; and that there was a prevalent feeling that insufficient information existed for an intelligent decision by the people as to the future canal policy of the State; and asking the Representatives from New York in Congress to request the Government to provide for the completion of the surveys and examinations (including estimate of cost) of deep waterway routes from the Great Lakes to Atlantic tide-water, including a thirty-foot canal to deliver the water of Lake Erie to the Hudson river, and including a full study of its possibilities for commercial and military uses and for the development of water-power therefrom. 59
While the bill to provide $82,000,000 was pending, in view of the lapse of time since the estimates were made, the changes in the conditions and in the cost of labor and materials, and the desirability of some changes and additional details, a formal resolution was passed by the Assembly on February 10, requesting from the State Engineer further information upon sundry points.
On March 2 the detailed answer of the State Engineer was given, revising the previous estimates for a Barge canal from Troy to Buffalo and from Three River Point to Oswego, increasing the estimate of the Champlain canal to the amount needed for a channel of the same size as the proposed Erie, adding the cost of a lock and repairs to the canal in the Albany lumber district, also the expense of a lock at the junction of the existing Erie canal with the proposed Barge canal near Fort Bull, and including the improvement of the Hudson river from Troy to Waterford and of the Niagara river from Tonawanda to Buffalo, which was omitted from the previous estimates in hope that the Federal Government would undertake the work. At the increased cost of labor and materials and with these additional details and changed conditions, the amount of this revised estimate was $100,562,993. 60
The necessary corrections were made by the Legislature and subsequently chapter 147, known as the "$101,000,000 Barge Canal Act" became a law. The act is too lengthy for insertion in full. In brief it provided for the issuance of eighteen-year bonds for canal improvement to the amount of not to exceed $101,000,000, not more than $10,000,000 to be issued within two years after passage of the act. A general annual tax of twelve-thousandths of a mill was authorized for each million of dollars in bonds outstanding in any fiscal year. The State Engineer and the Superintendent of Public Works were directed to begin improvements to the canals upon the basis of a channel seventy-five feet in width on the bottom, twelve feet of water and at least eleven hundred and twenty-eight square feet of water cross-sections, except at aqueducts and through cities and villages where the width might be reduced and the cross-section of water modified as deemed necessary by the State Engineer with the approval of the canal board. In rivers and lakes the channel was to have a minimum bottom width of two hundred feet, a minimum depth of twelve feet and at least twenty-four hundred square feet of water cross-section. In the statistical part of this volume are given diagrams showing cross-sections of the canal at its several stages of progress, from the original waterway to the enlargement now being constructed. The locks were to be three hundred and twenty-eight feet long by twenty-eight feet wide in the clear, and with eleven feet of water on the miter sills.
Routes to be followed and details of construction were fixed. In general the route of the Erie was by way of the Hudson river from Troy to Waterford; thence by a new channel to the Mohawk above Cohoes falls, and up the canalized Mohawk to Rome, with a few diversions to the existing canal; thence down the valley of Wood creek, across Oneida lake, down Oneida river to Three River Point and up Seneca river to the mouth of Crusoe creek; thence by a new route to the existing canal at Clyde, whence the line of the existing canal was to be followed generally to the Niagara river at Tonawanda and by this river and Black Rock harbor to Lake Erie. All work was to be by contract and provisions for the condemnation of necessary lands and for the sale of abandoned portions of the canal were made. An advisory board of five expert civil engineers and a Special Deputy State Engineer were authorized. The criticisms of the various commissions, that were appointed to consider canal affairs after the 1895 improvement, were heeded in part by vesting most of the responsibility for the work in the State Engineer, giving him authority over both engineering and inspection. The sum of $10,000,000 was appropriated to begin with and the operation of the entire act was made conditional upon its approval by the people at the election in November following.
The Legislature of 1903 also appropriated, by chapter 581, the sum of $275,000 for extraordinary repairs of existing mechanical and other structures, and other works on and connected with the canals of the State. Several important structures under special appropriations were completed and in successful operation during the year, among them a guard-lock at Geneva on the Cayuga and Seneca canal, a new concrete dam at Forestport in place of the existing timber dam, and several important bridges. On January 1, there were eleven unfinished pieces of work, all completed during the season; the appropriations for them were $246,899.01; the cost of construction was $201,999.63, exclusive of engineering. Twenty-three new pieces were authorized during the legislative session, of which seventeen were inaugurated. Of these, eight were placed under contract for the sum of $37,672.10, for which the appropriations were $60,000, and of the remainder seven were started under force account.
Erie canal navigation opened May 2 and closed November 28, 1903. Again many belated east-bound boats were caught in transit by a short cold snap after November 22, making the season nearly three weeks shorter than the year before. The Hudson river opened March 14 and closed December 2, and the lake at Buffalo opened April 6. A heavy increase in tonnage was shown. Initial clearances from Buffalo were the largest in ten years. The total tonnage was 3,615,403, an increase of 340,957 tons over 1902. This increase was well distributed, both in location and direction, except as to through east-bound freight, which exhibited a heavy failing off. The way freight east was 1,653,294 tons; the way freight west was 771,417 tons; the total increase of way freight was 252,172 tons. The through freight east was 739,518 tons; the through freight west was 451,174 tons. It will thus be seen that the heaviest tonnage was in eastern way shipments, and that the total way shipments exceeded the total through shipments by 1,234,019 tons. Notwithstanding the breaks and interruptions, the season was the most profitable one to the boatmen for eight years. Of the total tonnage the Erie carried 2,414,018 tons. The total receipts of flour and grain by all routes at the port of New York for the season of canal navigation, May 1 to December 1, 1903, were 75,413,020 bushels, of which the canals carried 17.07 per cent.
The expenditures for ordinary repairs and for operation for the fiscal year were $917,311.72. During the year claims on account of the "nine million" improvement (Class 2), amounting to $365,149.50, were passed upon by the Court of Claims and judgments allowed thereon to the amount of $52,275.44. 61
Three unusually disastrous breaks occurred during the season, the last of which, affecting the eastern division mainly, was caused by a Mohawk river flood that resulted from an incessant rain of five days, beginning October 7. Its severity may be noted from the fact that at the upper Mohawk aqueduct the river rose more than twenty-one feet in twenty-four hours. For miles the river and canal were indistinguishable, but by prompt action navigation was resumed by October 18.
The necessity for providing other than animal means of propulsion for boats at points on the proposed system where no towing-path was provided, seemed to have stimulated the question of electric propulsion and further experiments were conducted. On July 21 a permit by the Superintendent of Public Works was accorded to the International Towing and Power Company to test the Wood system of electrical propulsion at Schenectady. A mile of double track girder rail slightly elevated from the ground was installed back of the tow-path. A public demonstration was made on October 28, in the presence of Governor Odell, many other State officials, practical canal men, forwarders, boatmen and men of affairs. One boat, then two, and finally four loaded boats, each of two hundred and forty tons capacity, were drawn over the line at a rate of nearly five miles per hour, with a quick start and a notable absence of bank wash. Two "electric mules" were then operated towing two loaded boats in opposite directions. The demonstration was regarded as a success. The company stood ready to equip the existing canals at their own expense and to operate the system upon terms dictated by the State, asking the right of transferring this privilege to the new canal when completed. The Superintendent was inclined to regard the proposition favorably, but consent was withheld for the time being. 62
It is interesting to notice that the most conspicuous experiments in electric propulsion on the canals have been made in the years 1895 and 1903, when referenda for radical improvements were pending, and that the tests have occurred almost on the eve of election. Whatever may have been the cause of this, canal opponents were quick to spread reports that the trials had proved that no change was necessary, except the installation of the new devices.
At the general election in November, 1903, the act for the proposed Barge canal was submitted to the people, with the result that 673,010 votes were cast for its approval and 427,698 against it, or a majority of 245,312 votes in its favor. Immediately after the canvass of the votes by the State canvassing board, work was begun in preparing plans and in making further studies at points of difficulty.
Of canal legislation in 1904, there was little that need be recorded here; chapter 493 appropriated $275,000 for extraordinary repairs to mechanical structures on the canals; chapter 200 extended the term of office of members of the advisory board to the completion of the canal.
No serious breaks occurred during the season of navigation, but a month before its opening, ice-jams and floods in the Mohawk valley caused greater damage to tow-path and embankments than had ever been known. The Mohawk river, as a result, actually changed its course to the bed of the canal for several hundred feet at Fort Hunter. Untold damage to private property occurred. The Legislature was then in session and while the flood was at its height the Superintendent of Public Works transmitted estimates for repairs so that by chapter 730 a special appropriation of $75,000 was made available. Repairs to embankments and structures for over sixty miles were rushed and navigation opened promptly on the date fixed.
Canal navigation opened May 5 and closed November 26, a short season of two hundred and six days. The tonnage was the lowest for ten years, the total being only 3,138,547, a loss of 476,856 tons from that of 1903. Three principal causes were given for this: an early and important strike of lake freight handlers; low freights resulting therefrom; and the limited number of seaworthy boats available. The strike affected traffic instantly. Ordinarily the initial clearances from Buffalo on the opening of navigation kept the western locks busy for several days and nights, but this season only two or three grain boats cleared during the first five weeks of navigation. The way freight east was 1,597,765 tons; the way freight west, 595,516 tons; the through freight east was 550,106 tons and that west-bound was 395,160 tons. Of the total tonnage the Erie canal carried 1,945,708 tons.
The growing relative importance of way tonnage as compared with through tonnage, as affording the best index to the direct benefit to the people of maintaining the waterways, was necessarily brought into prominence by the proposed abandonment of certain sections of the present canal by the proposed Barge canal plan, thus isolating important manufacturing and shipping centers from participation in its benefits. Several of the cities and villages that would be so deprived vigorously remonstrated against the abandonment of any portion of the canal that would not be replaced by a new channel in the immediate vicinity.
Of the work of maintenance and improvements during the year, eighteen separate pieces of work were reported as unfinished on January 1, 1904, of which twelve were completed during the year. The appropriations for this work were $266,180, while they were built for $235,050.53, exclusive of engineering. Twenty other pieces of work were provided for by legislative action during the year; sixteen of these were begun, six by contract and the balance by State force account. The contract prices for the six were $32,359.15, while the appropriations therefor were $37,361.46. Five of the pieces on State account were completed during the year, the appropriations being $83,000 and the cost of completion, $82,908.39.
The total receipts of flour and grain at the port of New York by all routes during the period of canal navigation, May 1 to November 30, 1904, were 53,980,348 bushels, of which the canals carried 19.34 per cent. Ordinary repairs and operating expenses for the fiscal year of 1904 were $927,806.65.
During the progress of the "nine million" improvement many State ditches had become filled, some of them outside of the "blue line." The estimated cost of clearing them out was over one hundred thousand dollars and the Superintendent of Public Works, in his annual report, again urged an appropriation for that purpose. Although the sum appeared large, it was stated in support of the appeal that the records of the Court of Claims at the beginning of 1904 showed over seven hundred and fifty claims, aggregating one million dollars, coming from the middle division alone, half of which resulted from the conditions of these ditches. Other similar claims had been added during the year and the aggregate of such claims at its close was estimated at more than one and a half million dollars. 63
In line with one of the recognized features of modern improved construction, it had been the intention of the canal authorities from the beginning of active Barge canal investigations to recommend the use of concrete for structures instead of the more expensive cut-stone masonry. The importance of this material may be judged from the fact that about thirteen millions of dollars were involved in the original masonry estimates. During 1904 this feature attracted the attention of that part of organized labor interested in stone work, which resulted in an application to have the specifications changed to provide for cut-stone masonry. After careful investigations, extending to the examination of numerous important railroad, city and United States Government works in the South and Middle West, Resident Engineer William B. Landreth rendered a report (which may be found in the State Engineers Annual Report for 1905), in which he reached the following conclusions: that concrete of well-selected, proper material, carefully placed, has proved as strong and durable as cut-stone masonry; that its use generally in place of cut-stone masonry is becoming universal, at a cost of from one-fourth to one-third that of cut stone, and that it can be built in much less time; that its use on the work of the Barge canal will prove durable, economical and successful. The present practice of the United States Government is almost without exception based upon similar conclusions. The Advisory Board of Consulting Engineers concurred in this opinion and has maintained the original attitude in this particular.
The proposed canal enlargement includes, to a considerable extent, the canalization of rivers and other navigable waters of the state. In his annual message the Governor called attention to the fact that, within the past twenty years, the United States Government had expended more than three hundred million dollars in river and harbor improvements and that New York State had received but a trifling percentage of this sum as compared with the percentage which her commerce bore to the whole commerce of the United States. Accordingly, he suggested that our Representatives in Congress be requested to press the claims of the State for larger appropriations for the improvement of natural waterways in connection with the canals of the State. 64
Legislative action in 1905 included the following acts: chapter 722 transferred balances amounting to $31,044.46 from funds provided by chapter 329 of the laws of 1854 for the enlargement of the Erie, Oswego and the Cayuga. and Seneca canals, for the completion of the Black River and Genesee Valley canals and for the enlargement of locks on the Champlain canal to the sinking fund for the "nine million" improvement; chapter 709 appropriated $200,000 for extraordinary repairs in the usual form ; chapter 707 appropriated $179,000 to pay judgments on canal claims; chapter 700 appropriated $25,000 towards cleaning out State ditches on the Erie and Champlain canals filled during the progress of the "nine million" work.
During 1904 a large force of engineers was engaged in making additional surveys and in preparing plans and specifications for carrying out the provisions of the Barge canal act. In order to ascertain whether bids could be obtained within the limits of the previous estimates and thus to learn with reasonable accuracy the probable cost of the whole undertaking, six test contracts, located on different parts of the system and embracing the various classes of work to be encountered, were advertised and bids were opened in December, 1904. A mandatory resolution of the canal board, offered by the Attorney-General, required both unit price and lump sum bids to be made, but this was later modified to a request to that effect, giving to the State the option of accepting either. Lump sum bids were received for some, but not for all of the contracts. The question of the legality of this procedure was raised by the Superintendent of Public Works, for, while the Barge canal law is silent on the subject, the general canal law forbids the receiving of alternative proposals. Upon request, the Attorney-General finally rendered an opinion that, while the canal board was governed by the provisions of the Barge canal law, the Superintendent of Public Works had no option but to make the award to the contractor, who, on the face of his bid, should offer to do the work for the least cost to the State. As all of the itemized proposals were below the lump sum bids, awards were made to the lowest bidders.
Contracts were entered into in April and May, 1905, and operations were speedily begun. The first actual work of construction upon the whole project was performed, without ceremony or ostentation, on April 24, 1905, at Fort Miller, on the Champlain canal, the first work upon the Erie being done at Waterford on June 7, 1905. An important amendment (chapter 740) to the original law was made in 1905. The new act reads: "The locks shall have the following governing dimensions: Minimum length between hollow quoins, three hundred and twenty-eight feet, minimum width twenty-eight feet, minimum depth in lock chamber and on mitre sills eleven feet." The locks, as now planned, will have a length of three hundred and twenty-eight feet, a width of forty-five feet and a depth of twelve feet. This enlargement can be effected without greatly increasing the cost, and is made to permit the passage of some of the large lake boats. With this change, the capacity of the canal will, of course, be considerably increased, for these lake boats can carry about twenty-six hundred tons, but just what will be the economical size of boats under new conditions -- whether one large boat or a tandem of two smaller boats, or whether it may not prove that the best results will be secured by a fleet of four boats, each about one hundred and fifty feet long by twenty-one feet wide, with a combined capacity of about three thousand tons, which can attain a comparatively high speed and can be passed at one lockage -- this is a question yet to be determined.
Referring to the change in lock dimensions, the State Engineer, in his annual report for 1905, revealed the reasons which governed the determination of size. As previously indicated, the amendment of 1905 permitted an increase without definitely fixing the size. After a careful study of existing conditions, including the advantages of the great increase in carrying capacity of barges of forty-three feet beam over those of twenty-seven feet, also the fact that Canadian canals now possess locks of forty-five feet width by fourteen feet depth of water on miter-sills, that a large percentage of the distance covered by the proposed Barge canal routes is through canalized, natural water-ways possessing width sufficient to enable boats forty-three feet wide to pass each other, and that the proposed changes could be made without exceeding the gross estimates of the cost of the canals, the State Engineer and the Advisory Board of Consulting Engineers recommended changing the dimensions of all locks to forty-five feet clear width, by fourteen feet depth of water on the miter-sills. However, the provisions of chapter 147 of the laws of 1903 provides that no changes of plan shall be made of work under contract, without the approval of the Superintendent of Public Works, and as neither that official nor the majority of the canal board would approve of plans calling for more than twelve feet of water, the State Engineer presented, and the canal board approved revised plans for making the locks already under contract forty-five feet wide by twelve feet in depth, and these dimensions have governed subsequent contracts. The new plans also call for the use of steel in place of wooden lock-gates, as previously specified.
Navigation on the Erie canal was opened at noon on May 4 and closed at midnight on November 28. A total tonnage of 3,226,896 was carried by the canals in 1905, a gain of 88,291 tons. For the boatmen the season was the best for many years. Both through and way traffic paid profitable rates. The congestion of railway through freight at Buffalo aided in an increase of rates throughout the season, until in November five cents per bushel was the rate from Buffalo to New York. Ten million tons could have been profitably secured and carried by the canal, but for the lack of seaworthy boats. 65
The total of 3,226,896 tons traffic was made up of 2,234,484 tons of way freight and 992,412 tons of through freight. Of the way freight the Erie carried 1,392,300, and of the through, 607,524 tons. The eastern shipments total 2,283,583 tons, of which the Erie carried 1,450,175 tons. The western shipments total 943,313 tons, of which the Erie carried 549,649 tons. The expenditures for ordinary repairs, operation and maintenance, including statistics for the fiscal year, were $912,876.99.
The total appropriations for the fiscal year, 1905, for lock-tending and ordinary and extraordinary repairs were $170,000 less than the amount appropriated for the previous fiscal year. The Governor expressed a belief that a further saving of $75,000 could be made and all legitimate demands met, if only such expenditures should be made as were necessary to maintain the present waterways until such time as the Barge canal shall be available for traffic. The number of boats constructed annually during the last ten years has shown a constant decrease and during the last five years the number of new boats added has not exceeded from six to ten in any one year. Older craft have been rapidly going out of commission and a large number of boats navigating the canal are so dilapidated as not to be accepted as insurance risks. 66
The beneficial results of the provisions of chapter 370, 1905, were especially noted during the year. This act amended the code of civil procedure with reference to the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims in canal cases. Section 264 provided that a claimant should file a notice with the Attorney-General within six months after such claim should have accrued, giving details upon which the claim was based. Section 270 was also amended by requiring the filing of copies of claims and notices of claims with the Superintendent of Public Works as well as with the Court of Claims. This was believed to be an effectual measure against the prosecution of old claims, which, because of lapse of time and lack of evidence, the State could not successfully defend. In the Superintendentís office a bureau of claims was established and employees were notified, in case of accident or condition arising upon which claims could be based, to at once gather statements and make reports after the manner of railway and other corporations for use in case claims were made.
In his annual report for 1905, the Superintendent called attention to a new phase of canal traffic that has been steadily growing in recent years until it has reached large proportions. Up to the present time the use of pleasure craft of suitable dimensions on the canals has been freely permitted, the only requirement being an obedience to the rules of navigation and a limit of speed to four miles per hour. The application of gasoline and electricity for motor power and the increasing general prosperity and recreative trend of the times, that give to many the means and the leisure to enjoy these pleasures, have multiplied the number of these boats until the year 1905 witnessed the granting of over a thousand such permits, sometimes for a single or round trip, but largely for a seasonís cruising in the canals. To realize what this means it should be stated that there are less than six hundred freight-carrying craft in service. While it is true that the canals belong to the people and are for their use, it is also true that they were built and maintained primarily for commercial purposes. The granting of these permits has been followed by attendant evils, induced largely by the conduct of some of the boat owners, which at times has become on overweening insolence. In some instances the raising of city bridges for the passage of pleasure boats has seriously interfered with street traffic, and in other instances, where the speed limit has been exceeded, the banks have been so badly washed as to require expensive repairs. Section 9, article 7, of the Constitution says, in substance, that no tolls shall hereafter be imposed upon persons or property transported on canals. In the days of passenger packets, tolls were levied upon each person carried. As a regulator of this new traffic, the Superintendent raised the question whether the provision of the Constitution, subjecting all boats and their masters upon the canals to such laws and regulations as may have been or may hereafter be enacted concerning their navigation, would permit the charge of a fee for issuing permits to pleasure boats. 67
In response to requests from the people near Cayuga lake an appropriation was included in chapter 700 of the laws of 1905 for surveying a route to join that lake with the Barge canal. According to the engineerís report the most feasible plan to accomplish this result seems to be by a change in the route of the main canal between Fox Ridge and Lyons, bringing it nearer the foot of the lake. This alteration would lessen the cost of construction and maintenance of the Barge canal, as well as connect Cayuga and Seneca lakes with the main route. It would also allow a wider channel with easier navigation, besides tending to reclaim some thirty thousand acres of Montezuma marshes and to benefit the sanitary conditions along the shores of Cayuga lake, including a part of Ithaca. The disadvantage of eight miles of increased length of Barge canal would be partially offset by the higher rate of speed permissible in the wider channel. However, the change requires legislative sanction, and the project is still held in abeyance.
Before turning to the narratives of the other canals, it may be well to consider the question which is often asked concerning the cost of the canals. If the original cost or the expenses of subsequent enlargements and maintenance of each canal be desired, answers of only approximate accuracy can be given. Figures, indeed, are not wanting, but the difficulty lies in selecting the correct amount among the many varying reports. Doubtless these differences often arise from diversity in judgment in regard to the items which should constitute the total cost. Moreover, we are informed by those familiar with the subject that in the older financial accounts care was not always taken to distribute expenditures properly among the various canals. Again, under the guise of canal legislation many localities have succeeded in obtaining appropriations for certain public works, needful and proper enough in themselves, but very remotely, if at all, connected with the canals, and these amounts have been included in canal expenses. However, in the statistical part of this volume will be found an attempt to give the cost of original construction and of enlarging the several canals, together with a statement by the auditor concerning the outlay on each canal up to 1882 -- approximately the time of abolishing tolls. From this latter table it appears that at that time the Erie had earned $42,599,717 more than it had cost and that the whole canal system had $8,333,457 to its credit. If an idea is desired of the whole expenditure on all the canals, an analysis of the sheet in the Comptrollerís annual report summarizing all receipts and payments will give the information. This analysis, made by the Chief of the Bureau of Canal Affairs, for the year ending September 30, 1903 -- the nearest fiscal division to the beginning of the Barge canal -- shows that the whole system at that time had cost $169,466,410, while the direct income from tolls, salt and other duties, water rents and miscellaneous sources reached $144,234,120. If the amount paid for interest (reduced by the premiums and interest received) be added, the cost is increased to $212,690,234.
To the question as to whether the canals have paid for themselves, it is interesting to notice a statement of the auditor in 1877 -- five years before the abolition of tolls -- concerning the direct income for the forty years preceding. He declared that the tolls had then amounted to $130,034,897, that the carriers had received $146,868,964 and the merchants and warehouse-men at least $100,000,000 more for commissions and storage, making a total of $376,903,861. When similar items for the other forty-five years are added, a most conservative estimate of the direct financial returns to the State and its citizens will easily place the amount at twice the cost of the canals, with all interest included. In a later chapter we shall study the more indirect benefits of these waterways to the State and to the whole nation, especially during the earlier years. As this investigation will indicate, the beneficial effects of the canals -- supplemented by railroads, for which they paved the way -- in bringing wealth and prosperity to the State are almost beyond our calculation. That these indirect results cannot be set down in mere figures and that they far transcend the immediate monetary returns, is generally conceded. We have long ago thrown wide the highway of the canal, free to the commerce of the world; we need not, as did our fathers, rely upon its revenues for the necessities of the State, but through it the hand of the people rests upon the lever which controls and regulates the rates of transportation.
The foregoing pages have been devoted to an account of the Erie canal, together with much that has concerned the policy of the whole system. Much might be written of the endeavors of canal advocates and organized associations in agitating improvements before they have become crystallized in legislative enactments, but space has forbidden more than a recital of results attained. The aim has been to treat all subjects impartially, the failures as well as the successes. That errors have been made in the past has been frankly shown; that in individual instances from the very beginning men have occasionally failed in a just sense of their duties and responsibilities, must be admitted. Indeed, what public enterprise of equal magnitude and complexity has been free from them? But that the canals have generally been managed with prudence and justice and that the people of the state have continued to believe in their need and usefulness, are shown by the popular attitude, which, with but few, brief disaffections, has constantly demanded an adequate canal. And these facts constitute one of the greatest testimonials to the wisdom and patriotism of our forefathers.
We shall now consider each of the other canals in turn, but these accounts will be confined more particularly to statements of fact rather than to a discussion of policies.
1. Report of State Engineer, 1894.
2. Laws of 1895, chapter 79.
3. Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1895.
4. Senate Journal, 1895.
5. Legislative Journals, 1895.
6. Report on Barge Canal, 1901, pp. 981-982.
7. Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1895.
8. Report of State Engineer, 1895.
9. Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1895.
10. Report of State Engineer, 1895.
11. Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1895.
12. Report of State Engineer, 1894.
13. Report of State Engineer, 1895.
14. Report of State Engineer, 1895.
15. Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1895.
16. Report of State Engineer, 1896.
18. Report on Barge Canal, 1901, p. 982.
19. Id. p. 973.
20. Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1896.
21. Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1896.
22. Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1896.
23. Report of State Engineer, 1896.
24. Report of State Engineer, 1896.
26. Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1896.
27. Senate Documents, 1897, No. 26.
28. Report of State Engineer, 1896.
29. Legislative Journals, 1897.
30. Report of Barge Canal, 1901, pp. 970 and 973.
31. Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1897.
32. Report of State Engineer, 1897.
33. Governorís Annual Message, 1898.
34. Senate Documents, 1898, No. 4.
35. Senate Journals, 1898.
36. Assembly Documents, 1899, No. 78.
37. Assembly Documents, 1899, No. 72 (Report of State Engineer for 1898), pp. 277-364.
38. Assembly Documents, 1900, No. 69, p. 6.
39. Report of State Engineer, 1897, pp. 375-460.
40. Report of Attorney-General, 1898.
41. Assembly Documents, 1899, No. 61.
42. Senate Documents, 1899, No. 34.
43. Senate Documents, 1899, No. 23.
44. Assembly Documents, 1900, No. 69.
45. Report on Barge Canal, Assembly Documents, 1901, No. 70.
46. Report on Barge Canal, 1901, pp. 56, 57.
47. Legislative Journal, 1901.
48. Report of Attorney-General, 1901.
49. Senate Journal, 1901, p. 1605.
50. Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1901.
51. Governorís Message, 1902.
52. Legislative Journals, 1902.
53. Senate Documents, 1902, No. 35.
54. Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1902.
55. Id. p. 18.
56. Annual Report of the Court of Claims, 1902.
57. Report of State Engineer, 1902., p. 8.
58. Governorís Annual Message, 1903.
59. Senate Documents, 1903, No. 16.
60 Assembly Documents, 1903, No. 20.
61. Annual Report of the Court of Claims, 1903.
62. Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1903.
63. Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1904, p. 15.
64. Governorís Annual Message, 1905.
65. Governorís Annual Message, 1906.
67. Report of Superintendent of Public Works, 1905.